Let me state right up front that I am a Christian Believer and embrace the conviction that ministry must be alive in the marketplace during the week as in church on Sunday. This blog post is going to move into that realm so if you are not comfortable with that now is the time to close your browser and move on.
In the July 2013 edition of Inc. Magazine a venture capitalist by the name of Mark Suster is quoted in one of his more popular blog posts on how difficult it is to start a business from the ground up. Here is part of the quote:
“If you read the tech press every day, you’d get the impression that it’s all glamor, it’s not. Being a founder means enduring long days of anxiety, exhaustion, airport delays, and bad fast food. It means staving off creditors and working with less than nine months’ worth of cash in your family’s or company’s bank account at any given time. It means tamping down your insecurities long enough to persuade potential employees, customers, and investors to take a huge gamble on you. All of this in pursuit of a vision that, statistically, stands only the slimmest chance of success. No, it’s not as bad as working in coal mines, but it is quite the roller coaster, and the stress is real.”
Well, I can relate with much of his wisdom and experience. The vision continues at Edoc Service of employing people seeking to work at home and at the same time serving the business community with outstanding service. We have achieved this and more yet the early days were rough indeed. Staving off creditors hit us early having to choose between paying company bills and paying personal bills. It was not possible to pay both. The company bills always got paid first and the creditors were fought off with a vengeance. After all, coming from a position of hotel executive responsible for property accounting in the tens of millions. “Who were these young twits to lecture me on financial responsibility?” In hindsight it would have been more prudent to be patient and kind to those callers who were only doing their job. This approach would have been less stressful for both parties. It is not easy going from an executive position to the “ranks of the working poor”. During this time watching everyone in the company receiving a paycheck except me, seeing staff buy new cars, etc. while hiding mine to the back of the parking lot during sales calls in fear the prospective client would see me drive away. Our house was deteriorating around us and we couldn’t even pay for our daughter’s wedding. That part of the startup was horrible but it was not all bad. The company was growing; not as fast as hoped but enough to see the vision beginning to take root.
Every Christian-believing business owner I know states emphatically they could not have made it without God being a partner in the business plan. Each one of us has our own unique experiences that validate this. Let me share a few of mine.
One of my prayers during those early years was for God to teach me entrepreneurship. Running a business is quite different from being a corporate hack. These prayers were often followed up with a crisis. One time we ran completely out of cash with no hope of making payroll and no one willing to lend any more. Another calamity included a major client sudden walk-away after we hired numerous staff for the project. The pattern became obvious, when the prayers changed from education to help and there was a sense of God saying, “I thought you wanted me to teach you how to be an entrepreneur”. Christians soon learn to be careful what we pray for! Christian business owners also know however that God is always there. When that client pulled the plug at the last minute on the large project, I was distraught and the thought of shutting down the company occurred. I began to pray in my basement office when suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and shined directly into my eyes. My anxiety lifted immediately and knew the company would be okay. The experience prompted the realization that the mindless work we were doing was the wrong direction for the company and shifted to more meaningful service of lead-generation marketing. We built the foundation of our company on that service.
In 2009 when the bottom fell out of the economy, our profit line was hemorrhaging. The lead generation service was not working for our clients or us as it seemed no one was taking appointments, let alone answering the phone. Our goal that year was simply to break even by year end. I cut my salary along with another key staff member by 30% and pleaded with suppliers for relief. Chuck Proudfit, the head of At Work on Purpose at one of our roundtable meetings said he was praying for my company to break even. Well, in September that year due to a shift in Medicare requirements our medical transcription division began to grow rapidly. We did in fact break even that year and in 2010 became a debt-free company. Prayer works!
In 2010 a group of us at church formed to create a Biznistry® (business-ministry, a term coined by Chuck Proudfit) for the purpose of funding self-sustaining ministry endeavors. We decided to launch a kettle corn operation and developed (what we thought) was an ideal business plan. Once we published our plan and began fund-seeking to launch the venture we learned that God had another (perfect) business plan. Our plan included outside funding and employees to do the work. God’s plan included self-funding by us and “sweat-equity”. In other words we had to do the work. We are now in our 4th year of operation and can see that God had the perfect plan. Ours was lame in comparison. This is now an ecumenical 501(c)(3) all-volunteer enterprise that is expanding the volunteer base and generating growing funds for ministry endeavors.
Recently when a friend asked, “Then how can you explain similar success by non-believers?” This of course is a valid question. My answer at the time was that I can’t answer for the others, only myself. A devotional in Our Daily Bread that speaks of “Godly success” vs. “miserable success” explains it better. Godly success is God-driven and involves stewardship (He owns it not us) vs. miserable success that is often greed-driven, empty or irrelevant.Are you in a business or considering the launch of a business with a business plan that does not include spirituality? Good luck with that.]]>